The Beginning of the Long Dash

If you grew up in Ottawa or listening to the CBC, odds are you recognize “the beginning of the long dash following ten seconds of silence” as the time to set your clock. I’ve known the National Research Council time signal since I was a child. Sometimes I sought out the comfort or certainty of getting the precise time (modulo radio or satellite delay) through an audio feed.

Later in my life, as a network engineer and a bit of a protocol wonk, I cared about NTP (Network Time Protocol), though not as deeply as the sexier-to-me DHCP, DNS, SMTP, and HTTP protocols that were and continue to be aspects of keeping things working on the internet. Not just the bare bones protocols and some related standards (hi James, my favourite US-based networking person, policy wonk extraordinaire, and a fellow I’m proud to call friend) but the workings of the data and applications around them.

A recurring theme in my life has been learning how things work, internalizing that knowledge into a kind of wisdom, and finding ways to help people make those things work better. That theme is back in my life, after a brief silence during which I rebuilt myself from a technology specialist into an operations person.

I have begun the part of my career where I work for the National Research Council. They are not only the keeper of the official time signal. The NRC is the part of the government that uses science to improve the country and the world in many ways. Amongst [heh] our goals are building an entrepreneurial and creative society, creating partnerships based on excellence in science, and helping Canadian businesses use technology to improve their competitive position in the global marketplace.

I am not working as a research scientist, as I might have imagined I would when I was a youth. I’m taking on the first of what I expect will be several roles learning, understanding, and improving the way the organization works internally and in its interactions with government, business, and society.

My current role is the beginning of the long dash, the first of a potentially daunting set of organizational alignments I can see myself adjusting. That dash may look only a second long. I won’t be fooled: it’s a marathon.


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